ANTIPSYCHOTICS – INTRODUCTION
Atypical antipsychotics are the recently developed drugs that are useful in patients that do not respond to treatment with other typical antipsychotics.
Antipsychotics are classified as typical or atypical.
ANTIPSYCHOTICS – INDICATION
Antipsychotics are medicines that are mainly used to treat schizophrenia or mania caused by bipolar disorder.
There are two main types of antipsychotics: atypical antipsychotics and older antipsychotics. Both types are thought to work as well as each other. Side-effects are common with antipsychotics. You will need regular tests to monitor for side-effects while you take these medicines.
ANTIPSYCHOTICS – INFORMATION
Antipsychotics are a group of medicines that are mainly used to treat mental health illnesses such as schizophrenia, or mania (where you feel high or elated) caused by bipolar disorder. They can also be used to treat severe depression and severe anxiety. Antipsychotics are sometimes also called major tranquillisers.
There are two main types of antipsychotics:
- Newer or atypical antipsychotics. These are sometimes called second-generation antipsychotics and include: amisulpride, aripiprazole, clozapine, olanzapine, quetiapine,and risperidone.
- Older typical well-established antipsychotics. These are sometimes called first-generation antipsychotics and include: chlorpromazine, flupentixol, haloperidol, levomepromazine, pericyazine, perphenazine, sulpiride and zuclopenthixol.
Antipsychotics are available as tablets, capsules, liquids and depot injections (long-acting). They come in various different brand names.
Older antipsychotics have been used since the 1950s and are still prescribed today. Newer antipsychotics were developed in the 1970s onwards. It was originally thought that these medicines would have fewer side-effects than the older type of antipsychotics. However, we now know that they can also cause quite a few side-effects.
There have been 72 warnings from eight countries (United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and South Africa) warning that antipsychotic drugs cause harmful side effects. These include the following (note that some warnings cite more than one side effect, so the list below may not be equal to the total number of warnings):
- 17 warnings on antipsychotics causing heart problems
- 15 warnings on antipsychotics causing death/sudden death
- 9 warnings on antipsychotics causing weight gain
- 8 warnings on antipsychotics causing involuntary movements or movement disorders
- 7 warnings on antipsychotics causing strokes
- 7 warnings on antipsychotics causing withdrawal symptoms
- 6 warnings on antipsychotics causing convulsions, seizures or tremors
- 5 warnings on antipsychotics causing diabetes
- 5 warnings on antipsychotics causing birth defects
- 4 warnings on antipsychotics causing agitation
- 1 warning on antipsychotics causing mania and psychosis
- 1 warning on antipsychotics causing sexual dysfunction
How do antipsychotics work?
Antipsychotics are thought to work by altering the effect of certain chemicals in the brain, called dopamine, serotonin, noradrenaline and acetylcholine. These chemicals have the effect of changing your behaviour, mood and emotions. Dopamine is the main chemical that these medicines have an effect on.
By altering the effects of these chemicals in the brain they can suppress or prevent you from experiencing:
- Hallucinations (such as hearing voices).
- Delusions (having ideas not based on reality).
- Thought disorder.
- Extreme mood swings that are associated with bipolar disorder.